Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Try a Local Fair

Many years ago, like in maybe 2002 or something, I made a website for the local fair in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. Not a big deal, right? Well, this one was different.

At many fairs, people enter all kinds of contests for stuff they grow in their gardens. Biggest pumpkin. Best sweet corn. Reddest tomatoes. Chocolate chip cookies, cakes, maple syrup, a million other things too. In the last century, they had to fill out paper entry forms for all these things and mail them in.

My website was revolutionary in that it allowed online entry of all these things. And not just some form that looked like the paper form where you had to type in all the contest names - it was backed by a complex database of thousands of individual item classes that could be entered in competition. You could browse the list of available contest classes, click on the ones you wanted to enter, fill out your name and contact information, and when you showed up with your pickles they had a label all printed out and ready for you.

Vegetable contest entries at the Juniata County Fair
The system also printed forms for the judges to use, allowed the judges to enter the winners, and then printed all the checks for the contestants. It saved hundreds of hours of labor for the fair employees.

It was back around the turn of the century, so the technology used was pretty awful by today's standards. It was ASP and Microsoft SQL Server. Yeah, it makes me kinda sick now.

I did it all for free. I always liked the fair. I don't really know why. I grew up in a rural area and went to the fair every year, but I was never interested in farming or even gardening. I was very interested in funnel cakes, however.

Don't worry, I re-wrote the whole system twice since then. It's Java now, with ReST web services, and uses MySQL as the backend database. I might re-do it again someday, when the present technology becomes un-maintainable.

Why am I talking about this today? Well, this time of year is fair season. The Juniata County Fair starts this weekend. Other nearby fairs have either just completed or start soon too. If you are reading this from anywhere in the United States, odds are that there will be a fair somewhat close to you around this time of year. You should totally go.

Funnel cakes are awesome.

Amphibian.com comic for August 27, 2014